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Conservation Team volunteers pitch in with Farne Island breeding season preparation

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Volunteers on Inner Farne

Photo: Helen Wilson-Beevers

We spent a day at Inner Farne with the National Trust, creating new nesting areas for Arctic terns.

Arctic terns returned to Inner Farne last week, and the National Trust invited us onto the island to pitch in with the breeding season preparation. Our enthusiastic crew of Conservation Team volunteers and Northumberland Coast National Landscape team members were pleased to help out, and got some fresh nesting areas ready for the seabirds.

National Trust Area Ranger Tom Hendry said: “It’s fantastic having like-minded volunteers who also care about nature to ensure these special islands have the optimum conditions for the breeding birds that migrate here.”

Throughout the day we removed weeds, including dense patches of nettles which were tangled up in the nest areas, and pulled back last year's worn-out protective membranes that act as a lining underneath.

National Trust Assistant Ranger Anna Butler explained: “The terns need open spaces to nest, and the work being done to clear the ground and re-lay these areas is really important.”

Once the area was cleared, our volunteers began re-laying the material and placing a mixture of sand and gravel on top to make designated nesting beds.

Anna and Tom added: “This helps the terns have the ideal habitat, which is a mosaic of some vegetation for cover and protection from predators. Plus, the better ground conditions mean the nests don’t get swamped with nettles, which can sting chicks.”

It was all hands on deck as the team filled wheelbarrows to move materials around and raked the fresh nesting areas, while also being resourceful and getting some extra sand from the island’s beach.

National Trust Assistant Ranger Ben Throssell was part of the combined team, and he explained the importance of volunteering for conservation work. “I started as Assistant Ranger two months ago and this is my first job in conservation,” he said, adding: “Volunteering before that with the National Trust was what lead me here and was crucial for getting this job. It just shows how beneficial volunteering can be, for yourself and in the work you do. Coming from that background is why I was so looking forward to working with the volunteers today, because I love the atmosphere and camaraderie of all coming together with a shared conservational purpose.”

Between the National Trust rangers and our Conservation Team, we had a busy time working hard and feeling privileged to be on this incredible island. From spotting nesting eider ducks hidden behind walls and watching puffins peep up from their burrows, we also saw a porpoise in the sea on the Billy Shiel's boat ride back to shore.

“Getting to go onto the Farne Islands to help build the Arctic tern nest platforms was a once in a lifetime experience, it was such a brilliant and constructive day. All the volunteers worked brilliantly together alongside the National Trust team, who were so knowledgeable and welcoming,” Countryside Worker apprentice Ellie Saunders finished.

Later in the week, our volunteers joined the Space for Shorebirds team, including Senior Wildlife Ranger Richard Willis and Wildlife Rangers Katherine Dunsford and Ben Arthur, on a second visit to continue this work.

We're expecting the Arctic terns to settle into their new nesting areas any day soon.

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